Ronald R. and Edith Johnston were married and had three sons ranging in age from 12 to 16 when the parties separated. Edith filed for divorce the same year. The Johnstons owned a primary residence worth $ 186,000, with no mortgage on it. Ronald was a successful entrepreneur. He owned Depot Distributors, Inc., a business involved in selling and installing bathroom cabinets. He also owned several other businesses. In the four years leading up to the divorce, Ronald’s income was $ 543,382, $ 820,439, $ 1,919,713, and $ 1,462,712. Ronald invested much of his income in commercial and residential real estate that was held in his name only. At the time of the divorce trial, the real estate was valued at $ 11,760,000 and was subject to mortgages of $ 4,966,343.
After their separation, Ronald engaged in certain transfers of property and distributions of property, in violation of the court’s order, which obfuscated his income and net worth. The trial court judge therefore accepted Edith’s appraisals of the value of the real estate. The trial court judge applied the equitable distribution doctrine of Massachusetts and awarded Edith real estate totaling $ 2,446,000, the family residence, and alimony of $ 1,200 per month. The trial court judge awarded Ronald real estate valued at $ 9,314,000 subject to mortgages of $ 4,966,343, for a net value of $ 4,347,657. The judge characterized this as a roughly 60– 40 split of the real estate (i. e., 60 percent for Ronald and 40 percent for Edith). Ronald appealed the split of real estate and the award of alimony as violating the equitable distribution doctrine. Under the doctrine of equitable distribution, is the trial court’s award fair, or should Ronald win on appeal? Johnston v. Johnston, 649 N. E. 2d 799, 1995 Mass. App. Lexis 429 (Appeals Court of Massachusetts)

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